Hollywood Rubs Raw the Sores of Racial Discontent

 "The despair is there; now it's up to us to go in and rub raw the sores of discontent, galvanize them for radical social change.” (Saul Alinsky)

The power of film was understood early in the history of the medium, demonstrated by the virtual banning of the film Birth of a Nation for nearly 100 years. Its possible adverse effect on race relations was the reason.  Today, racism -- nowadays anti-white racism instead of the anti-black racism of a century ago – is once again being driven by prominent film makers.

In the last four decades a new genre of film has arisen described by Paul Kelsey as “anti-white snuff films.”  These films, often advertised as being based on fact, tend to exaggerate the horrors of slavery or police brutality and idealize the victims.  This results in the promotion of black rage and paranoia and engenders feelings of guilt in more suggestible whites.  Mississippi Burning, Roots, Amsitad, Django Unchained, Birth of a Nation (2016), Fruitvale Station, The Butler, 12 Years a Slave, 42, Lincoln, and Selma are to a greater or lesser extent part of this genre.

In the movie Fruitvale Station a scene shows Oscar Grant, the main character, coming to the aid of a dog that was hit by a car.  The scene is totally fabricated but adds to the humanization of the future victim.  Variety’s review noted, “Even if every word of Coogler’s account of the last day in Grant’s life held up under close scrutiny, the film would still ring false in its relentlessly positive portrayal of its subject.”  The Butler is an account of Eugene Allen who served as a butler in the White House through eight administrations.  Although Allen told the Washington Post that he had enjoyed a happy childhood, the film opens with a nine-year-old future butler watching the cotton-plantation scion raping his mom.  In Mississippi Burning there is a scene where a black boy is attacked outside a church.  It is supposedly based on an attack on Beatrice Cole. Cole claims that after she requested to be allowed to kneel and pray the Klansman decided not to beat her.  

A reviewer of 12 Years a Slave reported, “The film is so powerful it caused some critics to walk out, and left others in tears. The film has already made many Americans uneasy about their past.”  President Obama stated after watching The Butler,

“You know, I did see The Butler, and I did tear up.  I teared up just thinking about not just the butlers who have worked here in the White House, but an entire generation of people who were talented and skilled, but because of Jim Crow, because of discrimination, there was only so far they could go.“ 

The First Lady claimed, "I know I was mad just watching the movie," after watching 42, a movie about the life of Jackie Robinson.

Of course reactions often exceed mere anger.  The 1988 film Mississippi Burning is an example.  After watching the film Todd Mitchell asked his friends, "Do you all feel hyped up to move on some white people?”  They chased down 14-year-old Gregory Roddick and beat him so severely that he suffered permanent brain damage.  After seeing Django Unchained, a number of moviegoers issued violent and racist tweets expressing a desire to kill white people.  In an interview with YourBlackWorld.net, Louis Farrakhan after watching Django Unchained stated, “To me, the movie had a purpose.  If a black man came out of that movie thinking like Django and white people came out of that movie seeing the slaughter of white people and they are armed to the teeth, it’s preparation for a race war.”

If Hollywood chose to concentrate on the theme of white children murdered by black perpetrators they could find plenty of highly dramatic material.  5-month-old Andre Jenkins was placed in a clothes dryer by his babysitter.  12-year-old Jonathan Foster was murdered with a blowtorch.  13-month-old Antonio Santiago was shot in the face at point blank range in front of his mother.  There is an extensive but only partial list of white children murdered, often in a most savage manner.  It is quite likely such movies would have a negative social impact.  When Director Quentin Tarantino was asked if there was a link between screen violence and actual violence he replied, “It’s a movie, it’s a fantasy. It’s not real life.”

The end result of these films and the news media narrative has been to increase the level of violence.  This has been demonstrated by the recent murders of police officers.  The idealization of “cop killers” has an interesting history.  CNN commentator and academic, a defender of Mumia Abu-Jamal, was so intrigued by the Chris Dorner murders that he remarked, “It’s almost like watching ‘Django Unchained’ in real life. It’s kind of exciting.”  A former Miss Alabama announced that she felt the Dallas shooter was a martyr.  Even Time magazine has argued that rioting was a justifiable form of protest.

John Dietrich is a freelance writer and the author of The Morgenthau Plan: Soviet Influence on American Postwar Policy, Algora Publishing, 2013.

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